Development of preindustrial prototypes for solar generation of high-temperature process heat:
Testing and characterization of application to production processes and waste elimination
Diego Martínez,; - Inmaculada Cañadas,
SOLARPRO I: Project funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology under the National RD&I Plan (2003-2006). Total budget: 370.60 €. CIEMAT Budget: 176.60 €. SOLARPRO II: Project funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology under the National RD&I Plan (2004-2007). Total budget: 35.04 €. CIEMAT Budget: 7.26 €.
SOLARPRO I: November 2003 – November 2006
SOLARPRO II: October 2006 – September 2007

Solar thermal energy is the renewable energy which, because of its characteristics, must take on a relevant role in industry, as it can provide, directly or by transfer to a fluid or to an absorbent material, the thermal energy necessary for many industrial processes, and can supply process heat at different temperatures.

The industrial processes that usually require the highest energy input are those produced at high temperatures. For future implantation of the concentrating solar thermal technology in high-temperature industrial processes, research and demonstration must focus on each particular process and its technological feasibility, and adjusting the design and production parameters.


The purpose of “SolarPRO” is to demonstrate the technological feasibility of the use of solar thermal energy for energy supply in different industrial processes with high temperature as the common denominator. The processes studied in this project are basically classified in two groups, industrial production processes and waste treatment processes.

  • Industrial production processes: Since it is intended to take advantage of the capacity for generating high temperatures typical of concentrating solar systems, it was proposed to study the feasibility of the application of solar thermal energy to different processes of industrial interest in which a high energy input is necessary, and which have associated, if fossil fuels are used, high emissions of acidifying compounds, such as powder metallurgy processes, processes typical of the ceramic industry and a diversity of materials treatments.
  • Waste Treatment Processes: Applying the same principle, it is intended to combine two effects beneficial to the environment, use of a renewable energy source and destruction of hard-to-eliminate waste.

Three different, innovative prototype chambers or reactors were designed and built in parallel under SolarPRO I based on different technologies, in addition to different prototypes and test devices for specific applications. At the same time, we developed our own data acquisition and control programs, enlarged and improved facilities, put into operation and characterized the different reactors, and tested each of the different processes studied in “SolarPRO”. In SolarPRO II, these reactors were successfully improved, nearing the preindustrial goals of the project. At the present time, work on this project is continuing, developing second generations of these prototypes, and even prototypes of new designs, with successful results.

SOLARPRO Project solar reactor prototype in operation in the PSA Solar Furnace.

The different stages of the SolarPRO project have:

  • Developed three different innovative protype reactors, based on different technologies for generation of high-temperature solar process heat.
  • Improved three innovative prototypes developed in the first stage of the project, based on different technologies, with different temperatures and working conditions supplied by concentrated solar energy. The improvements made have advanced our knowledge of the prototypes and technology, so new improved pre-industrial scale prototypes can now be designed based on earlier ones.
  • Identified possible new processes that could be powered by solar energy
  • Acquired sufficient experience and knowledge to undertake a new stage in the pre-industrial scale project.

CIEMAT, Univ. Seville, Instituto de Tecnología Cerámica, Polytechnic Univ. Cataluña, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas -CSIC